Simon Lee (Spiderzero) – Monster Maker Interview with the Frazetta of Character Sculpture


>>Simon: Well, I was born in China, and lived in Beijing, China for 10 years,
and then my family moved to Hong Kong for 10 years, and then I moved to LA at age 21. But ever since I was a kid, y’know even back in China and I’ve always
been fascinated by designs of ancient creatures or monsters and stuff like
that. I’ve always been drawn to it. Those type of sculptures or paintings, anything that has creatures in them. I guess I’ve always had that affinity to those
type of things, but y’know, I don’t understand why, but it’s always been
with me. I think it is, just when I look at a completely alien or never before seen creature or a character, there’s just something innately exciting about that. I don’t know, I cannot put my fingers on what
it is. It’s very intriguing to me like how they come up with stuff like that, what
… because when I was a kid, I was just drawn to the aspect of, “Oh, that
looks very, very different. That looks very, very exciting. I don’t know why but I want to find out what
it is about this character, how they did it.” Y’know, but
as I grew older, it became sort of — I became more analytical. I look at something I want to figure out what’s
different about this one, how is it different from the others. And later on, I became even more scientific
— ‘How does it work? What’s making this thing possible?’ I guess … but all along, the different aspects
of monsters and creatures I’ve always been fascinated with. I remember the first time I saw the Alien. I mean there’s no denying that, the first
time I saw the alien creature, from the film Alien. I was blown away by it. That thing was always in the shadows, “What
is that?” But it’s very, very intriguing. And I also remember first time I saw the Predator,
when the mask came off. That was completely unexpected. And then the things like the face hugger,
all those type of things. They’re just so many. But the memorable ones? Just in recent film
history, I could probably say the Alien and the Predator. I’ve always enjoyed sculpting since I was
a little kid. I started playing with Play-Doh I believe
at age three or four as far as I can remember, But mainly it’s just always been a hobby.
I’ve been just sculpting on and off as a hobby throughout most of my adult years. I actually started professional sculpting
only a couple of years ago… about — right now, I’m 42. I started doing
sculpture full-time at age 40. Art was never really a goal for me because
… I don’t know. I’ve always had that affinity
for art. I love art, but for some reason it never occurred
to me to become an artist. I used to draw a lot. But then I stopped drawing. I kept sculpting but mainly as a hobby, just
doodle. Artist was never a possible career choice
for me. For some reason it just never popped in to
my consciousness. I actually… My background is actually — I went to business school. I studied marketing. And then I graduated, I became a self taught
programmer. I learned how to build websites, how to do graphic design, so I started my own little web design company
and I built websites for 10 years. My turning point actually, what led me to switch from being a web programmer
to a full-time sculptor was actually at one point, I was approached
by two sculptors, Brandon and Jerry Shiflett. They asked me to build a website for them,
and I did. And at the end of the process, I built a forum
for them, I figured might as well just test out the features. I posted some of my sculptures on their forum. Next thing you know people started emailing
me, telling me they want to buy my sculptures. “Really?” Then it dawned on me. You know, there is something there. I could
possibly make the switch. So I started doing model kits as part-time. Then within two years, that side job has kind
of picked up and I reached the point where I felt confident
enough, “I can make the switch,” because of my background in online programming
and online marketing. I’ve thought… ‘It might be possible for me to market myself
at this age, at age 39. If I can possibly market myself without going through the shops
or working in the film industry and be an independent
artist.’ So that was the turning point, and then I had a hard time actually trying
to convince my wife, “Okay. This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to close down my web business and I’m going to become a sculptor.” Actually, at that time we just had our first son. So it took quite a bit of convincing for me
to make that switch, but I’m glad that she was very supportive of me and I made the switch. And so that was two and a half, three years ago that I made the switch from web programming
to sculpting and designing my own characters and release
them as a model kits. That’s when I started doing concept design
work for movies. It has just been a very, very different experience. And I’ve been just been working non-stop ever
since. I think that — I mean, for me — one, because of the limited experience or
exposure I’ve had in the film industry if you will. I’ve been lucky in the sense that I’ve always been just trying to doing something for myself. And
first and foremost, it has to please me. Because I think at the
end of the day, I’m not getting any younger. I have to do something that I think that would
contribute to my growth as an artist. I want to do something that I enjoy doing
or enjoy making. So when I work for someone else, I try to bring that type of mentality to it,
not that I won’t take directions from other people. But I try to honestly give my interpretation or give my analysis of how a character should be or how art can be created or presented from that angle. In terms of a commercial product, I try to
do something that I like, but at the same time is commercially viable,
if you want to think what the consumers will like, how they will react to a certain theme or
product. I mean for myself, I enjoy all sorts of different themes. I enjoy
monsters just as much as I enjoy, things that are beautiful. But it’s just so that I’m in a position where most my fans are monster lovers. They love
monsters. Which is no problem for me because I love
that too. You know, but at the end of the day, I’m really drawn to just things that are all across different spectrums. In terms of dealing with criticism, obviously that is a relatively new thing for
me, because before, I’ve been just calling my own shots or doing
my own things. Y’know. If people didn’t like it, fine, I’ll find someone else. Working with directors, art directors — that
becomes a different scenario, but I’ve always been used to that type of
interaction with people because before, when I was running my own business, I was a designer, I was a programmer, and I always go to my client with the best
solution from my perspective, but that might not be their reaction to whatever
proposal that I was presenting them with. Dealing with customers, I’ve always been accustomed to that for the
last 10 years of my life, before I even became a professional artist, I was always used to just working with people,
knowing where and when my ego would stop, and the
transaction to come in and to make it work because at the end of
the day, when someone else hand me a paycheck and I’m
performing a task, it’s not about what I want, it’s about getting what the client needs and what they’re paying for. So that part,
I have no problem with. My artistic influences have always been the
renaissance masters, Michaelangelo, Bernini, all the way to Rodin, Alfred Gilbert — all the special effects, master sculptors
… I mentioned before Brandon and Jerry Shiflett
are both good friends of mine, fantastic sculptors, love their work Carlos Huante, Jose Fernandez, Steve Wang,
Jordu Schell, the list just goes on and on. Back in the day, I used to love the works of Japanese sculptors,
the Garage Kit sculptors, Nirasawa Takeya I mean I try to draw my influence or influences
from all over the place, because I liken it to be the only way to better myself as an artist,
is to learn from all disciplines, because you never know
where the next inspiration is going to be coming from. It could be coming from a dance routine, it could be coming from a piece of music. Because at the end of the day, I think all
these different art forms are kind of related, or kind of interrelated.
It’s all about expressing the human emotion. All that I’m doing here is I’m sculpting something
in clay, I’m trying to tell a story, I’m trying to formulate a character, but the driving force behind that is more than just looking at some grand sculpture and admiring
the artistic effort that went to it, it’s actually a lot of different things. If I can be just watching people playing the
drums. And that feeling, energy, whatever that’s
energizing me can just be translated into my work. In that sense, I look to all the different
artists and try to draw whatever it is that they’re
doing and try to bring that into my work. For someone getting into this for the first
time, I would tell them, keep an open mind in terms of your artistic interpretation. A lot of the young kids or young artists that
I’ve met, they’re always trying to do something cool. They think that — I think they pay too much
attention to the outer, exterior … What I would advise somebody coming from that
background to do is really keep an open mind, keep learning, keep
bettering yourself, and also want to balance the business side
of things and the artistic side of things. You cannot have one without the other. You can be the greatest artist in the world, but if nobody is aware of that you exist, that is not going to make a difference. Or you could be the best salesman, but if
you cannot create, that’s not going to work either. We’re in the business, or we’re in the profession
where the two kind of have to go hand in hand. You have to keep constantly bettering yourself and to keep — constantly try to become a
better — for lack of a better description, a better
business person. Because at the end of the day it’s all about
interpersonal relationships. For somebody starting out, yes, try to strive
… try to become a better artist, but at the same time try to be more personable. Learn from people, not just the art, and also how to deal with different people. Yeah, I always want to do different and bigger things. Not in terms of size. Yes, I would love to sculpt something maybe
10 feet tall. Just stuff that I’ve never attempted before. And that’s what’s keeping it interesting for
me. Because my professional career has been very,
very short up to this point. I don’t have a huge portfolio. But there are so many things that I want to
attempt that I want to accomplish. I’m just trying to get that done one at a
time, because if I look at Michael Angelo’s work, Bernini’s work, “I’ve never attempted that, why not?” But we’re living in a digital age where you can copy and paste and we can use rubber stamps and just make
things done much, much quicker, why not just combine the knowledge of the
modern day era, but with the mentality of the master, the older masters from back in the day and try to create something new. Use the mixture of all these different tools and different sources and inspiration and create something exciting. Whether with doing it in clay or doing something
in the computer. So that has always been my driving force anyway. Every day I get up, when I come to work, when I come to my studio,
I feel energized because, Oh, I get to do art. No, I want to do something different. I want to do something new that I’ve never
attempted before.

31 comments

  • Jerry Lentz

    Amazing work!

    Reply
  • Sanjog Rai

    Inspiring!

    Reply
  • ScratchAttackTV

    He's awesome, one of the most incredible sculptors today.

    Reply
  • glittered453

    I love this guys spirit! Very inspiring and I cannot wait to see some of his future projects

    Reply
  • Anime Studio Animation

    he is an awesome artists

    Reply
  • Anime Studio Animation

    07:50 I want that sculpture…that is sick

    Reply
  • Alfred Paredes

    Bravo guys!! Bravo. That was really inspiring. Way to go Simon.

    Reply
  • NewtonsWrong3510

    truly the soul of a sculpter

    Reply
  • metalvocalistwanted

    very cool

    Reply
  • icepick method

    Who were the japanese kit builders he mentioned?

    Reply
  • Michael VanBenschoten

    Thank you! As a young guy, its inspiring to know that it's never too late to follow your dreams. I hope to be able to thank many of these guys in person some day.
    Now back to sculpting.

    Reply
  • ourvideosamples

    Your videos are awesome. I love the look and feel. How long does it take to shoot and edit a full class?

    Reply
  • Richmond Chaisiri

    You're actually referring to two legendary sculptors, Takayuki Takeya and Yasuhi Nirasawa. Many people (including the amazing Shiftlett Brothers) consider Takeya to be the greatest living model kit/character sculptor today.

    Reply
  • OgreBattleFight

    Yasushi Nirasawa and Takeya are two different sculptors

    C'mon man, Takayuki Takeya worked with Stan Winston on Pumpkin Head, how the heck do you get his name wrong StanWinstonSchool :p

    Reply
  • OgreBattleFight

    Takayuki Takeya and Yasushi Nirasawa are both prolific Japanese sculptors, look them up and you can see the strong influence they gave Simon Lee, google their names and you'll find a lot of great artwork.

    Takeya's also done a lot of Predator and Alien sculpts, and worked with Stan Winston himself on his movie Pumpkinhead!

    Reply
  • ming ming

    零蜘蛛您好,很喜欢您的照片,希望可以和您学习到,您你真的为国争光了!

    Reply
  • sogeth grimley

    Simon Lee is my hero. 

    Reply
  • JotaDee Leon

    Thanks a lot Mr Lee, You are really my hero! I was attempting to start in this art profession, i now y know im not going to regreet! hope i can meet you one day! cheers man! 

    Reply
  • Jason LeBlanc

    Very inspirational. I watch this one a lot.

    Reply
  • เอก บุณยามระ

    You inspire me..!!

    Reply
  • George Stavroulakis

    He is just Great!

    Reply
  • Rafael Burgos

    LOVE THIS! Thanks inspirational words Simon =)

    Reply
  • jon moore

    brilllliant to watch, what a guy,  

    Reply
  • Nicolás Tovar Rubio

    hola, el material que usa es plasticera ?

    Reply
  • 김밥

    I love his work which like amazing creatures and zombies where like in the beautiful nightmare.

    Reply
  • 강민범

    이런 분은 직업이 정확하게 뭔가요?

    Reply
  • Gabriel Gripp

    this dude is so humble! You are awesome!

    Reply
  • El Ente

    Excelent video, he is sooo humble.
    But… what is that epic sculpt behind him!!! My God!!

    Reply
  • TheStuboy86

    I had no idea he started so late!!!

    Reply
  • KAOS NATION

    Master.

    Reply
  • nonstopchecks

    Inspired by you man! Goals!

    Reply

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